A New York-based Iranian-American journalist rescued from kidnapping by the FBI and brought to Tehran has said the plot against her is “a threat to all Americans” and would outrage the nation.
Masih Alinejad, 44, discovered the scale of the plot against her last week when charges against four Iranian intelligence agencies were revealed by New York prosecutors. She had been told there was a plan eight months earlier and was taken to a hiding place, but on July 13 she learned that they planned to take her from her home in Brooklyn and take her to Venezuela by speedboat.
From Venezuela – which has friendly relations with Tehran – she would be brought to Iran.
“It’s an insult to all of us that a foreign country comes here and tries to kidnap an American citizen,” Alinejad said in a Zoom conversation with Bari Weiss, Substack’s newsletter writer.
Masih Alinejad, 44, an Iranian-American journalist and dissident, spoke to Bari Weiss on Wednesday about a daring plot by Tehran to get her out of her Brooklyn home.
Bari Weiss, who has a Substack newsletter, described Alinejad as heroic and brave
“I’m not a criminal – I’m just giving voices to voiceless people.”
Alinejad said Joe Biden, whose press secretary condemned the plot, needed to be more forceful with his response.
Jen Psaki said on Wednesday: “We categorically condemn Iran’s dangerous and despicable plan to kidnap a US citizen on US soil. We will vigorously defend American citizens and American interests.”
Still, Alinejad told Weiss that the response was not enough.
“It’s about the regime challenging US authority on their territory,” she said.
“This is a threat to all Americans and all journalists.
“I want Biden to condemn that.
“This is America.”
Four Iranian spies were charged on July 14 with conspiracy to kidnap the Brooklyn-based journalist (pictured) who spoke to DailyMail.com on July 15 from her front porch while overlooking her garden
Alinejad said she was shocked when the FBI handed over her surveillance photos, taken on behalf of the Iranian spies, who showed her in her beloved garden
Alinejad and her husband Kambiz Foroohar, a former Bloomberg reporter, said they are not afraid, despite federal agents warning them that they will have a “bull’s eye” for the rest of their lives.
Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, has been subjected to fierce criticism by Alinejad
She urged those outraged by the brutal attack to write to their congressmen and seek further response.
“If it wasn’t me, if it was you, how would you expect the public to react? Attacked by kidnappers? If a foreign country tried to kidnap you?’ she asked.
“Write to your congressman, warn them that this is about American safety.”
Growing up in a poor, rural community in Iran, Alinejad was an activist from an early age — spurred on by seeing her brother Ali enjoy his freedom, while being denied the same rights.
“I’ve never had any idea of equality, discrimination, feminism,” she told Weiss.
Anti-government protesters are seen outside the Iranian embassy in Berlin in January 2020
In January 2020, pro-regime activists can be seen in Tehran protesting the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qasem Soleimani by a US airstrike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
“I just had a brother, Ali. He rode his bike, ran around, jumped in the river, went to football.
‘I wanted to have the same freedom as him.
‘I started my own revolution from my own kitchen.
“I became a warrior instead of victimizing myself, feeling miserable and staying home.
“We have only two options: be a victim or a warrior.
“That was my path: to become a warrior.”
Alinejad called on Joe Biden to do more to speak out against the Iranian plot
Alinejad’s earlier criticism of Iran:
July 2018, The New York Times:
“As a journalist in Iran, I often ran into trouble exposing the regime’s mismanagement and corruption, until eventually my press card was revoked.
‘I was often threatened with arrest or worse for writing articles critical of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
‘Finally in 2009 I was forced to flee my homeland.’
July 2020, Voice of America:
“I call on the leaders of European countries to join the US in condemning not only the Iran hostage crisis, but also the recent executions of prisoners.”
August 2020, The Washington Post:
“The regime’s brutal treatment of women remains one of its greatest weaknesses, and my focus on related injustices explains why it remains so persistent to attack me.”
Alinejad became a journalist, exposed corruption in the Iranian political system and then became a columnist when it cost her her job.
Still, she criticized the government — comparing 2005-13 president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a dolphin trainer who made the “animal” public obey him for a piece of bread — until she was forced to flee the country in 2009.
Alinejad now lives in New York City, holds US citizenship and is married to a fellow Iranian-American journalist.
Her high-profile attacks on the Iranian government continued and she was aware of the risk.
But when the FBI knocked on her door eight months ago, she initially thought it was a joke.
“Eight months ago they came to my house and told us to get out.
“Even this house, we won’t have a conversation here,” she told Weiss.
She was taken to FBI headquarters in lower Manhattan.
“They told us our house was not safe, we were threatened.
‘I was kidding. I said come on. I’m used to it, what’s new.
“Then they showed me pictures of my stepson, my husband, my private life. I get out of the house, every step. Me through the window.
“They took pictures of me watering my beautiful garden, my beautiful sunflowers.”
She was told that Iranian intelligence had hired a US-based private investigator to keep an eye on her. She was transferred to various safe houses, with the FBI trying various methods to confirm the identities of the conspirators and even attempt to arrest them.
She said it was “very scary” to act normal, knowing what was happening behind the scenes.
Kiya Sadeghi (left) accused of being an asset while working for Iranian spy chief Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani (right)
Mahmoud Khazein (left) and Omid Noori (right) are among four Iranians accused of kidnapping plot
But she said it made her stronger.
“For years they said America was this Great Satan,” she said.
“Then I saw that they weren’t afraid of America, they were afraid of me.”
Alinejad said she was determined to continue her activism, believing she was a voice for those who had no voice.
Women have been jailed in Iran for participating in her campaign to end compulsory hijab, and she said she was fighting for them.
“It’s not a burden, it’s a responsibility for me,” she said.
“If I keep silent, I’ll betray them.”